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Several mysterious booms heard in Chesterfield and the Tri-Cities were likely caused by exploding targets made with tannerite.

Tannerite targets can be bought over-the-counter at sporting goods stores, usually in half-pound or pound jars. However, bulk exploding tannerite targets are available online.

Justin Watkins, 28, fired off 20 pounds of tannerite Saturday afternoon. Watkins says he and many neighbors in the area shoot off the loud, exploding targets in the woods. Tannerite targets are perfectly legal, if used properly.

"We spent close to $100 on just 20 pounds of (tannerite)," said Watkins.

Neighbors were certainly shocked by Saturday's blast and the series of explosions heard intermittently over the last few weeks.

"It was like an explosion and it startled us. It shook the house, and we weren't sure what it was," said Beth Wilson, who was rattled after the big boom on Saturday.


Chesterfield police received up to 20 calls after Saturday's explosion, heard around the county and beyond, which investigators now confirm was from 20 pounds of tannerite.

"Surprising. I mean, if it startles people, you would think (police would) stop it," questioned Travis Wilson of Chesterfield.

It's illegal to hunt with a high powered rifle in Chesterfield county. However, rifles can shoot tannerite. Regardless, shooters must follow all the rules of firing weapons outdoors, like staying far away from homes and highways, and not firing over night.

Bob Moates Sports Shop owner Richard Hill sells half-pound jars of the chemical. Hill says tannerite is safe when used properly.

"(Tannerite) is a lot easier to handle than black power. It's one of those things you can mix, drop on the floor. It's not going to go off," said Hill.

Tannerite isn't explosive until its chemicals are mixed. It must then be detonated by a high-powered firearm. The exploding target should not be stored or left standing for long periods of time after it's combined and becomes active.

Watkins points out that he's just one of many neighbors who aim for a bigger blast using tannerite.

"Compared to all the people who are involved and doing it, I'm just one person. This stuff is nationwide," continued Watkins. "(After a tannerite blast) everybody gets on social media and calls the cops, and it's obvious that the tannerite explosion made that noise."

"It was just very unnerving not knowing what it was. But if (tannerite target practice) truly is what it is, at least we know," added Beth Wilson.

Even though tannerite is legal, it can still be dangerous. The warning label states that users could lose a limb, or even their lives.

Chesterfield police have investigated the booms, and report no noise ordinances have been violated. However, officers can't attribute all the explosions heard over the last few weeks to tannerite target practice.